HC Deb 06 November 1962 vol 666 cc801-4

3.33 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)

I beg to move. That this House entertains a just sense of the exemplary manner in which the late Major-General Ivor Hughes, K.C.V.O., C.B., C.B.E. D.S.O., M.C, uniformly discharged the duties of the office of Serjeant at Arms, and devoted himself to the service of the House. The words of the Motion are, of course, formal and traditional, but the words we use in support of it are anything but formal. They are an expression of our very real gratitude to a man who was a great servant both of his country and of this House.

With this Motion, we pay tribute to one who exceptionally served in all three posts of Assistant, Deputy and Serjeant at Arms. In all of them he showed how richly he was endowed with all the necessary qualities which he put so freely at our service. From his appointment in 1935 until his recent illness, General Hughes, upon whom, last July, Her Majesty was pleased to confer the honour of a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, had never missed attendance in the House on any day that his duty required him to be here.

I put it in this way because, as many Members will remember, his service was broken in 1940 when he rejoined the Armed Forces and served with distinction for the second time in a world conflict. Right hon. Members and hon. Members who were here at the time may well recall that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), then, of course, Prime Minister, reported to the House on General Hughes's activities at El Alamein. Some of us, like myself, can remember him, although we were in a very junior capacity, in war time, but all of us can remember the quiet efficiency, courtesy and kindliness with which he served us.

We would like to send Lady Hughes and his relatives our sincere sympathy. We shall all miss him very much.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)

I should like to support the Motion which has been moved in such appro- priate language by the Leader of the House and thereby would associate my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself with the sentiments he expressed.

General Hughes's death is not only a great loss to the House of Commons, but a personal sorrow to all of us. I will not speak of his career, which has been well covered by the right hon. Gentleman, but will say only this. General Hughes was a Serjeant at Arms who obviously enjoyed and was passionately interested in his work in this House. He was a kindly and modest man of marked ability who never used his very considerable powers in an unpleasant way, but looked on himself as somebody who was serving all of us, and it was for this reason that he won our confidence and respect and friendship.

We shall miss him a great deal. I join with the right hon. Gentleman in sending our deep sympathy to Lady Hughes and her children.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I should like to associate the Liberal Party with what has been said in support of the Motion, and if I do so very briefly it is partly because no one, I am sure, would have been less apt to judge the quality of speeches by their length than the late Serjeant at Arms.

In addition to what is said in the Motion and to what has been said in its support, I would say that General Hughes was a friend, a personal friend, and was felt to be such by Members on both sides of the House; and that is no mean tribute to a man who had many awkward duties to perform.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

Those who have paid tribute to the late Serjeant at Arms are leaders of parties. They are the general officers commanding; they are the people who have billets and Parliamentary Private Secretaries and flunkeys and batmen, but, generally speaking, the people who needed the Serjeant at Arms were the P.B.I, of this House, the back benchers, the Lobby fodder. We came more in contact with him because we needed him more. We had a good Serjeant, and we pay tribute to him today.

There are people, of course, television commentators, journalists, and other disappointed applicants to come into this House, who tend to think that Parliament is not what it used to be and that Members now are not as good as their grandfathers were. I do not hold that view—but let it pass.

I have made some investigations recently into the precedents affecting Serjeants at Arms and I can confidently affirm that the one to whom we are paying tribute today was probably the most esteemed Serjeant that this House has ever had, because he came through the whole of the service of the House since 1935 and he showed too, conspicuous loyalty in other ways. Those of us who were here will remember that the previous Serjeant of Arms had not been well for a large number of years. He certainly leant very heavily on General Hughes. It seemed to us that General Hughes got that office in a way which was unnecessarily delayed but he carried on cheerfully because he was extremely loyal.

General Hughes had many great gifts to which we pay tribute, and one at which the Leader of the House hinted: he had a reticence which is proper in a Serjeant at Arms, and which made us esteem him very much. He was a kindly man. I happen to have served on two Select Committees on Accommodation. New Members may think that the accommodation and provisions of the House are not too good, but if they had seen them thirteen years ago they would know that General Hughes was concerned to help to make them much more comfortable for right hon. and hon. Members.

We are very sorry that General Hughes did not live to receive the accolade from Her Majesty, but we all give the accolade to him today as we pay our deep respect to those whom he loved the most.

Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)

In the absence of our right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), I should like to say, as one of the few who have been Members of the House since the late Serjeant at Arms entered its service, that I have never received from any Serjeant more kindness, more courtesy and a more genuine desire to be of assistance. That is how it seemed to me, and apparently everyone else felt that way as well about General Hughes.

I trust that his successor will enjoy the same kindness, the same appreciation, and the same good will that General Hughes enjoyed from all of us.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That this House entertains a just sense of the exemplary manner in which the late Major-General Ivor Hughes, K.C.V.O., C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., uniformly discharged the duties of the office of Serjeant at Arms, and devoted himself to the service of the House.